All students graduating from the Department of Chemistry with a major in either chemistry or biochemistry must complete at least one year of independent laboratory research. Chemistry majors are mentored by faculty from the Department of Chemistry, while biochemistry majors may select a faculty mentor from the Department of Chemistry or the Department of Biology.
Chemistry majors and biochemistry majors who select faculty mentors in chemistry must meet a number of requirements to complete the Chem 495 or Chem 496 research series. These include:
- Completion of at least 4 hours of research a week during the fall semester and at least 8 hours of research a week during the spring semester
- Weekly meetings with faculty mentors
- Approximately 2-3 research talks per semester presented to the chemistry faculty and other research students
- One literature research presentation per semester given to the campus community (usually includes faculty and students from the various science departments)
- A final poster presentation at the end of the spring semester
Selected research projects from the past few years are shown below.
Note: This is only a representative listing of projects. All graduating seniors have completed their own projects during this time.
Michael Dobos (project completed for Honors in Chemistry)
"The Immobilization of Lactase: Kinetics and Stability Characteristics"
Lactase is the digestive enzyme responsible for the breakdown of lactose into glucose and galactose. Inadequate amounts of this enzyme can lead to lactose intolerance; the enzyme is used in the food industry to prepare lactose-free dairy products. Since enzymes often are not very stable in solution, industry is always looking for ways to stabilize them for extended use. In this project lactase was encapsulated in polyacrylamide particles. The trapped enzyme was then compared to the free enzyme with respect to long-term stability (e.g., pH and temperature effects) and its kinetic characteristics.
"Crystal growth of succinic acid"
The size and shape of crystals (and sometimes the internal crystal lattice) is determined by a number of factors. These include, but are not limited to, crystallization solvent, temperature, rate of crystal formation, presence of impurities, etc. This project focused on attempts to modify the "normal" crystal shape of succinic acid by systematically changing many of these factors. In addition, an impurity was introduced during the crystallization process in an attempt to "block" crystal growth in certain directions.
"Alcohol Dehydrogenase (ADH) Purification"
ADH is one of the enzymes responsible for the metabolism of ethyl alcohol in humans. In yeast it catalyzes the last step in alcohol fermentation. Because of the wide variety of substances occurring in cells, the process of purifying enzymes from natural sources is very complex. The purpose of this project was to study new methods for ADH purification. Different types of column chromatography are nearly always a part of the purification scheme. In this project the student studied the effectiveness of both ion exchange and gel filtration chromatographies. In ion exchange, proteins are separated on the basis of their charges which vary as a function of pH. Molecular weight differences are employed in separation by gel filtration chromatography.
"Polymorphism in a Diels-Alder Adduct"
Polymorphs are produced when a molecule crystallizes in two or more different forms. Different polymorphs of the same compound have different physical characteristics (e.g. melting point, hardness, conductivity, etc.). Since the physical properties of a substance change depending on its polymorphic form, it is beneficial to be able to predict which form will appear or grow crystals in a manner that will produce only the desired polymorph. This project looked at a Diels-Alder reaction that seemingly produced an unexpected polymorph of the product. The project involved, among other things, attempts to produce different polymorphs under different crystallization conditions, study of crystals using a polarizing microscope, X-ray diffraction (performed at Youngstown State University), and organic synthesis.
"Diels-Alder Reactions in Ionic Liquids"
Unlike most organic and inorganic salts that have extremely high melting points, some organic salts are liquids at room temperature due to a bulky cation. These ionic liquids have interesting physical and chemical properties. Due to their high polarity, they are able to dissolve some compounds that do not ordinarily dissolve in organic solvents. In addition, their high polarity makes them insoluble in many organic solvents. For this reason, reactions can be conducted using ionic liquids, and their organic products can be extracted into more traditional organic solvents for purification. This project investigated the use of ionic liquids as solvents in Diels-Alder reactions.